Researchers have dug up the largest winged dinosaur ever found. Discovered in China, the fossilized feathered creature was so well preserved that scientists have been able to reconstruct much of its plumage.

Photograph Junchang Lü via The Guardian
. Image 1.Photograph Junchang Lü via The Guardian

The almost complete skeleton belonged to a creature alive 125 million years ago, when the region it was discovered in (now called the Liaoning Province) was dense with forests. The new species has been named Zhenyuanlong suni.

Image Chuang Zhao via The Guardian

. Image 2.Image Chuang Zhao via The Guardian

"In general it is very bird-like, but it's big, and has these very short arms with full-blown wings" says paleontologist Steve Brusatte. “When you see a dinosaur like this that’s pretty big, and has these short arms and bird-like wings, it begs that question: what are wings really for? We used to think pretty much anything that had wings was flying, but that’s not so clear now.”

Photograph Junchang Lü via The Guardian
. Image 3.Photograph Junchang Lü via The Guardian

The wings wouldn't have been able to lift the creature off the ground. Instead, they may have been used for colorful sexual displays or to shield eggs from predators. Many scientists now believe that wings and feathers weren't originally intended for flight, but evolved for other reasons like sexual display, warmth, and protection.

Cover image: The Guardian